Poppin’ Peonies–A Cemetery Banquet

Elwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee

I frequent cemeteries.  Really.  One of my favorite photography pastimes involves hanging out at huge formal memorial parks, inner city garden cemeteries, old forgotten, weed-infested country graveyards, and illusive prairie burial grounds.  Scouting out the towering artistically sculpted monuments with their ornate decorations or unusual headstone inscriptions definitely lures this photographer.  Most current cemetery plots are boring and uninspiring with their ground-level headstones and the intrusive vase stuffed with gaudy silk flowers, each individual lost among the checker-board landscape.

Now take the well-kept Odell Cemetery in southeast Nebraska.  The immaculate and manicured prairie cemetery is far from uninviting during the last weekend in May.  Divided only by the entrance road, this final resting place for hundreds bestows for visitors a blooming spectacle of old-time peonies.  Masses of large frilly red, pink, purple, and white blossoms drape themselves across and topple over the hundreds of tombstones etched with names like Pavlik, Cacek, Jajek, Kadlec, Novotny, and Zabokrtsky.  The annual Memorial Weekend showy floral explosion of color and lacy textures are visible testimonies and legacies of loved ones.  It is a floral coming out unnoticed by many passersby, and one elaborately flourishing among stone, rock, and cedar trees.

Saturday, May 24, 2008—The late afternoon sun sank across the prairie horizon, flowery shadows tapped gently on each headstone.  Sheltered mostly from the Nebraska wind, the extravagant palette of peony color contrasted the stark gray headstones.  Each distinct yet personal profuse bloom elaborately exhibited for capturing with camera lens while others enjoyed only with cupped hands and deep inhalation.  Two hours of poppin’ peony photography, the silence of the floral party intruded only by the shutter button.  Tramping from fragrant grave to fragrant grave, flitting and dashing about much like a butterfly longing for the next sweet moment, the smorgasbord of floral diversity savored with each click. Portion control nonexistent.

Limited only by the setting sun and a patiently waiting husband, the feverish peony photography Memorial Weekend ended far too soon.  I had daydreamed and waited two years for these evening hours.

Ants crawled along my forearm as I wedged stolen blooms of perfection in makeshift containers, others gripped tightly with hands or between feet.  Sweet scents permeated the Saab and filtered through the evening breeze as I slumped deep within the passenger seat, breathless but content.  Floral bouquets are normally brought to the cemetery, not taken from.  However, on this occasion the few appropriated beauties were photographically preserved in my light box during the next 48 hours.  Historically speaking, their perpetual testimonies and legacies shown in the floral portraits below.  

Additional peony poppin’ Memorial Day Weekends—someday—with another 800-mile trek.  The sun’s rays may have vanished with those 2008 twilight hours in one of Nebraska’s best-kept secrets, but my love for the elegant peony remains steadfast.  What a glorious evening garden party in a cemetery!

 
THESE BLOOMING FRIENDS
By L. Young Correthers (1934)
 
The peony is a jolly flower,
She’s nice to hold and touch.
She always grows in bunches,
For she likes herself so much.
She sometimes looks untidy
And when dressed in red looks hot—
It’s because a peony always wears
Every petticoat she’s got.
 

Thanks for sharing a special moment with me in a garden cemetery.  More peony portraits can be seen at www.corinthrose.com under Flowers.  Also, be sure to linger at the current slideshow for additional peony images.  “I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.”  Psalm 77:12

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About corinthrose

Born again Christian, helpmate of 42 years, domestic engineer of two children, GRANDmother of six darlings, professional volunteer, fanatic photographer, and a wanna be writer. Occasionally, infatuated with family history, flower photography, and traveling with my hiking buddy.
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3 Responses to Poppin’ Peonies–A Cemetery Banquet

  1. Pat Trainum says:

    Love this post. The peony is one of my favorite flowers. I can just see you flitting from headstone to headstone like a butterfly, snapping away!

  2. Nancy says:

    Somehow I could smell those poppin” peonies as I read your blog. I enjoyed the poem Blooming friends. And wanted to let you know how excited I was to see the violet growing that you so thoughtfully sent a photo of to me. Also tonight we received a deposit for the purchase of the house on 11th St. That is exciting too.
    I traveled to Nebraska City this weekend with friends from the Beatrice Art Guild picked up The Country Register with a painting done by Sandy Lynam Clough called Wildflower Tea on the cover. Made me think of you. This artist lives in Powder Springs GA and I am going to explore her web page http://www.sandyclough.com after I send this note off to you. May your day bring you a joyful heart.

  3. Pingback: Andersonville National Historic Site…remembering | Corinth Rose

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